THE Federal and State governments will make it illegal to dump new dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park but the rule will not apply for maintenance dredging projects.
Federal environment minister Greg Hunt announced the ban on ‘capital dredge spoil’ being dumped within the 348,000sq km marine park.
But environmental groups are concerned because maintenance dredging and associated dumping will still go ahead.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters said more than 1.7 million cubic metres of spoil every year was dredged from maintenance works under current proposals, the same as dumping the Abbot Point dredge spoil once every two years.
But Mr Hunt said not carrying out maintenance dredging risked ship strikes and a “catastrophic environmental outcome”.
He said the government’s announcement was about major proposals, referring to the new ban as a “radical” and a “once in a century change”.
He said dumping of dredge spoil in the marine park had been going on for 100 years.
The Federal Government oversees the marine park and is therefore able to ban the dumping of dredge spoil in that area that makes up 99% of the World Heritage Area.
The Queensland Government is responsible for overseeing the ban on the ports – the remaining 1% of the World Heritage Area or a total 3000sq km.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said they were committed to not dumping dredge spoil in the World Heritage Area.
The WWF has also expressed concerns that 80% of recent dumping had been just outside the marine park and that meant plumes of spoil could easily drift into the protected waters.
Mr Hunt said it was a myth that dredge spoil had previously been dumped just outside the marine park’s boundary and harmed the reef.
He used environmental concerns at the Port of Gladstone as an example.
“What’s actually referred to here is the proposal put forward by the previous Queensland Labor Government in relation to Gladstone,” he said.
“And in Gladstone the large amount of disposal was actually in a bunded [enclosed] area in what’s known as the western bunded area. That was outside of the marine park but within the World Heritage Area.
“We actually launched an inquiry into the Curtis Island and Gladstone area on our watch but the Gladstone Port area will be covered by the Queensland Government.
“I think it’s important to separate myths from reality.”
– APN NEWSDESK